Imagine you have a severe headache. But there is an appointment that you absolutely have to attend. An important negotiation, a speech to a lot of people, a trial …
Download MP3 Podcast: 2 Good Actor – Mental Strength Training
Do you think other people care about how you are feeling? Some probably do … but most of them don’t. The majority don’t care how you feel. Your employer, your client, your customers just want one thing: That you perform well. That you provide your optimal performance for them. Or, in the case of an opponent: That you lose. You need to be a good actor.
In the first part of this training, we already talked about what it means to train mental strength. Let’s start today with competitive behavior. So the state we need to be able to activate our full capabilities. Under pressure, in a crisis, in dangerous situations. And in the decisive moments in our lives.
If a boxer got hit hard during a fight, he suddenly loses at least 50% of his strength, stamina, and concentration … He may have been left behind on the judges’ scorecards. His trainer told him that. With the rest of his mind that is still working, he knows: “I have to really step on the throttle. Otherwise, the belt is gone – and with it everything I’ve been training for, during the last years.”
Maybe he slept badly the night before the fight. Or he spoiled his stomach. Or something really bad has happened. A good friend may have died. But now there are thousands of people in the sports hall. They came because of him. And that’s not all: Millions of people also watch this event TV. Because they want to see him win.
What is the main skill this boxer needs now? We will answer the question in a moment. But first, draw a parallel to your life: When have you been in a similar situation? We are not boxers. Luckily. And yet the parallels emerge: sometimes we get hit, knocked on, lose a lot of strength, as a result, are excited, nervous, disappointed, hurt … and yet, it is then that we have to do our very best.
Or a little less dramatic: Sometimes you just don’t feel completely fit, or even miserable. And still, you have to do your best. When could that be? And please don’t say: “That doesn’t happen to me.” Because it is important, moments like this spice up our lives. That we have such highlights in which we switch to our competitive behavior.
It is important because it gives us results that ennoble our lives. Because overall, with this we also strengthen our real behavior. Further, with such situations, we drag our whole life to a higher level. Finally, we strengthen our self-confidence, especially in crisis situations, and because it is simply necessary from time to time to grow beyond ourselves. Not only for ourselves, but also for the people who are important to us.
Because we chose not the life of a shell or a duck, but the life of an eagle. An eagle has to fight for its freedom. He likes to do that because he loves his freedom. And by living out his freedom, he reaches places and situations that most people don’t even know about. And there he needs his competitive behavior.
The most important element: Being a Good Actor
So what’s the most important skill you need for a strong competitive behavior? Most people don’t get it. It is the ability to be a good actor.
Of course, the terminology alone is very problematic in some cultures. Some values seem to contradict the idea of acting. For many people, “playing forwards” seems to be identical with “deceiving others”. I know about this problem. But I still decided to use the term “actor”. Here I follow James Loehr.
As soon as you have worked through all parts our mental strength training (eight parts in total), you will understand.
But first of all: It is not a question of us not being ourselves in the long run. That would be fatal. Most of our life we are in our real behavior. There is no place for actors here.
But sometimes it depends. There are sometimes really tricky situations that are very crucial at the same time. Then we need our competitive behavior. And then be a good actor is the most important quality.
Let’s say it very clearly: Nobody will be able to achieve top performance without acting.
So let’s ask ourselves: What makes a good actor? And is it fair that top actors get such incredible fees? Twenty million and more for a film. The answer, which is surprising for many, is: Yes, they deserve this sum rightly. Because they have an incredible ability: They can feel how they want.
In the first part of this mental strength training, we talked about how our emotions cause changes in our bodies. Good actors can do this solely through their body language and through appropriate movements of their facial muscles. That means: Through body language and facial expressions you can change the chemistry of your body. Isn’t that fascinating?
A good actor can immediately present the emotion required in the script in a believable way. Because he can physically implement this emotion. The best actors do not only play the required emotions, they actually trigger them. They actually feel grief, sadness, anger, happiness … The important thing is: They can slip into any emotion, no matter how they felt before.
Researchers have carefully examined and determined that the emotions played, are identical to real emotions. Fake emotions change our body chemistry just like real emotions. And because of that, good actors are so credible and convincing.
The analogy between competitive behavior and being a good actor
Good athletes also need to be good actors. You have to be able to direct the chemical processes in your body in the desired direction. At the right moments, they have to revive confidence, serenity, victory certainty. For yourself and to impress your opponent. But mostly for yourself.
When boxing: “Show that you are not hurt.” So if a boxer caught a bad hit, it is important that he shows his opponent: “That doesn’t bother me at all.”
But, whoever would live permanently like that, would sooner or later become physically and mentally ill. The modern word for that is burnout. Because he would not permanently meet his own needs. But at the crucial moments in our lives, we just have to be able to function optimally. It doesn’t matter how we feel right now. Our real behavior also doesn’t matter for a moment. Like a good actor, we have to be able to play a role.
The ability is being a Good Actor in demanding situations
The crucial question now is: what role should we play? Which script do we have to follow in a very important and demanding situation? These questions are easy for an athlete to answer. An athlete simply has to take on the role of a winner. No matter what the score is; no matter how he feels right now. He must play the winner.
First of all for himself. He has to create the chemistry of a winner in his body by directing his facial expressions and body language and thus creating the desired emotions. He has to behave like a winner, and look like a winner even though he may be losing. This is the only way he has a chance to turn the competition around.
Real-behaviour or Actor?
Instead, athletes who cannot act well simply live out the emotions that they are currently feeling. So you’re not following the directions in your script. An athlete’s script says: behave like a winner. Move like this, train your facial muscles like this.
Of course, there are always athletes who have not learned this, who simply give in to their respective emotions: They show their angriness, smash their tennis racket. Or kick the opponent off the field and then have to leave the field themselves. Or they are scared and pull their shoulders up. They are nervous and fidget.
Of course, the athlete without acting talent wouldn’t say: “I am incapable.” But in fact, there is something much worse than incapacity. There is already a lack of understanding of the need to act differently. There is a lack of awareness, those good athletes must also be good actors. Some don’t even know about it. This is the most important quality of a champion. And every winner.
An athlete must understand that he has to play the role of a winner in a competition. No matter, what else he is in his life. That is the prerequisite for competitive behavior. And what about “normal” people? Can you see an analogy to your life here?
When do you have to be able to be a good actor? When do you have to switch to your competitive behavior? Imagine someone pulling you to court. In general, you are a peaceful person, but now someone is wrongly asking you for a large amount of money as compensation. Maybe for something you did not even do.
In court, the same applies to like for a good athlete: You have to be a good actor. It must be the lawyer, otherwise, the counter-lawyer and the judge will quickly decide the matter to your disadvantage. Your lawyer must be able to watch the judge. Even the counter-lawyer. The plaintiff too. Then he knows where to find a weak point and especially when. A good lawyer knows when he won. He watches the counterparty – and the judge. With mental strength, you can see it, too, if you are in a courtroom. That is when the meaning of competitive behavior will become completely clear to you.
A good lawyer knows all of these things. But the client he represents must not physically collapse. No matter what incredible course a negotiation takes. Neither may his facial features derail. A judge will not honor that, rather he will usually punish it. And the opposing lawyer may use it for his client.
The same applies here: we have to play the winning role. No matter what is going on in our actual life. And also completely regardless of how we feel right now. The course of the negotiation should not have an influence on this.
We need the ability to access our competitive behavior. If we cannot do this, we will remain far below our capabilities in critical situations. Probably even if we totally fail. Knowing this, we avoid such dangerous situations right from the beginning. But then, we live in the shade. We miss the light that could illuminate our lives.
The most important skill we need for our competitive behavior is to be able to act well. Acting is not only a crucial skill for top athletes but for every winner.
If Steffi Nerius couldn’t get her optimal performance from the Olympics and World Championships earlier, it was because she had to learn to be a good actress first. At least at the crucial moment.
In the next part, we’ll look at how you can learn and train that.
Your Thinking Time For Week 2
About Being a Good Actor:
Do your thinking time in a mind storming manner. That means you write a list of ideas for each question. For 1 week, think every day about the following questions and find for each of them at least one new answer or an example. Write the answers down in your journal.
- What do you think of the phrase “Fake it, till you make it”? Freely translated: Pretend that you have already done it until you really do it. Can the distinction between real me and the competition be helpful here? I mean yes. Whoever imposes a role on his real behavior will find it difficult to satisfy his needs and to be happy. At least not permanently. But if you do not manage to activate your competitive behavior in important situations or do not even understand this need, you will most likely miss the highlights of your life.
- Now that we have a closer look at the competitive behavior, how do you rate your ability to activate your competitive behavior (on a scale of 1 to 100)?
- What can you do specifically to strengthen your competitive behavior? We will of course only deal with this in detail in the next part. But it can help you think about it before. And compare the results with the next part.
- Write down five things you are grateful for.
On the 7th day analyze your results. What is the point which would give you the highest leverage? What action will you take, to making a little progress in that direction?
Vital and happy regards